The perk about being a copywriter is that we must always create content.
It doesn’t matter whether we feel like it or not. Yeah… you read that right.
If you want to get serious with writing, you must rid yourself of the belief in some mythical ‘writers’ muse’. it is a sibling to the tooth fairy. They are close like that and they both don’t exist.
In contrast, writing only when you only feel like it, is a recipe for poor productivity. You keep putting work off until you have so many deadlines to meet, that you start to feel like you are going insane! So much for the ‘muse’…
No writer likes to be in such a fix. So, it is only natural that we devise means to be more productive with as little stress on our psyche as possible.
Truly, no matter how much we try, we cannot completely take away the work from writing. But with some hacks, we can fool ourselves enough to believe that we aren’t doing so much work after all.
How does it work?
Well, it simply follows the cliché technique of breaking the entire work into smaller, simpler pieces. Next step is, tackling one small piece at a time until the entire work is completed. Trust me on this one; there’s so much more to that simple explanation up there!
Listed below, are some of the most helpful writing tips I have employed over time. I know they will be useful to you too.
Before you start writing:
1. Choose a convenient location:
This is key to any successful writing endeavor. You should select a location that affords you the freedom to modify it to your taste. If you are working from home a small room is fine but if you don’t have the means to be fully isolated, you can use a small space in a comfortable area of your home.
Some tips to improve your writing experience include:
- Use ergonomic seats – you don’t want to suffer back pain in the long run after lengthy typing spells.
- To reduce interruptions due to noise, you should choose a quiet section of your home – light music in the background is great too (Canon in G-major – Pachelbel!).
- Painting (very odd, I know): Choose a paint color that doesn’t inspire gloom and kill your mood.
2. Eliminate distractions from smartphones:
Your smartphones should be nowhere within your immediate reach while you write. This is very important. Recent studies in 2016 support the arguments that smartphone addiction is on the increase in recent times.
Being a writer doesn’t make you immune to this trend. If you are really serious about doing some real work, then your smartphones should be away from your person while you write. Here are some tips to curtail smartphone interference during writing.
- Keep your smartphone on a different table some distance away from your work area – that way, you have to make quite an effort to reach it during writing sessions.
- Use Ipads/tabs/slates instead – the bigger the device, the more difficult it would be to move them around at will.
3. Draft out a writing schedule:
It is practically impossible to write for 24 hours non-stop. Even 4 hours is a huge deal! To become more productive with your writing, create a schedule.
This schedule should give sufficient eye-rest periods and hand-rest periods too. As writers, we are prone to repetitive strain injuries (RSI) because we use our fingers and wrists a lot more often than most people do. Carpal Injury is no joke. Rest your hands for a few minutes after typing for an hour at most. Your eyes should also be given as much care as your hands or even more.
Some tips to protect your vision include:
- Look away from your computer screen every now and then. Focus on some distant object and away from your computer screen after every 10 mins. This exercises the lens and reduces impact light incident upon your retinas.
- Never stare intently at your computer screen for more than 20 minutes at a go. Your eyes are delicate and can’t handle such torture
4. Set your word target:
Nothing productive will be achieved if you do not set a measurable goal. Goals help us stay accountable and focused. You should set word goals every single day you type. Some tips to setting your word goals are:
- Start small: If you’ve never typed regularly before, don’t set huge word goals like ‘5000 words’. Just don’t! Set realistic goals like ‘500 words each day’ instead and aim to be consistent.
- If you find yourself overshooting your word target on a regular, it’s time to upscale your word goal. Do this by increasing your words target to a point where you have to put in some effort to reach it. But not too high that you fail again and again.
- If you skip one or two days in your writing goals or you fail to hit the word target, don’t beat yourself up about it. Find out what hindered you from reaching it. Correct it and try again.
5. Plan your writing to accommodate eating habits:
Food is life and only the living type. You should plan your feeding routine around your writing and not the other way round. Many writers will disagree but this is as practical as it gets!
If you snack a lot in between meals, you won’t stop that habit because you are writing. On the other hand, you definitely will stop writing for that habit. Study your eating pattern and find a way to blend it with your writing schedule.
6. Get yourself in the right frame of mind:
Productivity is strictly tied to a uncluttered mind. If you want to write and write well, it is best you avoid those situations, people, and incidents that get on your nerves or cause you some form of mental stress
Regular exercise is also very helpful. Consider doing a few simple exercises every morning before you start preparing to write.
7. Keep a desk clock or alarm clock on your work desk:
I’m sure you are asking why.
Shouldn’t your computer be sufficient for your timing needs?
In my experience, you couldn’t be further from the truth. I barely check the time on my PC when I type because I use a distraction-free typing application. The only way I do not miss that rest period or that food break is an alarm clock or a desk clock consistently ticking away in my view.
8. Keep a dictionary handy:
Of course, we are writers. But sometimes, we may need to check out the definition for a new word or a synonym every now and then. No one wants to write boring repetitive sentences.
Two of my favorite dictionaries include Merriam-Webster collegiate – because of the robust thesaurus feature and Oxford advanced learner’s dictionary. I recommend the e-copies as the physical books are an awful pain to carry about. You should have them installed on your PC for easy access.
9. Take mini breaks between writing:
Of course we all dream of being able to write so fast and uninterruptedly for hours on end. Well, that’s not possible. At least, most of the time. We are mortals and have to work with what we have.
To improve your thoughts for your writing, consider moving around after every 500 words or thereabout. It helps me to rethink my ideas and condense them into a more appealing format. Walk around, drink a cup of water, get off your seat for a while. This works, I promise.
10. Keep your emergency lines open:
Not every writer is without immediate responsibility for another human being. Some of the best writers on the web are mothers and primary caregiver fathers even!
Having to care for children and also write is a tough job. So while it is sound advice to eliminate all distractions, always keep your emergency lines nearby and easy to reach. Don’t switch off your gadgets. Always make sure you are accessible! Always!
Conducting your research
11. Decide on your topic:
The first step to take in your research is to decide upon your topic. Your topic is key to the remaining stages of your productive writing. It determines the depth of your writing and also determines the tone and content of your work.
Choose a topic that is relevant to your writing goals. Never choose a topic you know little about unless you are prepared to spend a lot of time researching it.
12. Keyword research:
Sometimes, your topic can also be your keyword but in most cases, the topic will be a very broad version of your keyword. Your keyword is the single word or phrase that summarizes the content of your writing.
Conduct a very thorough keyword research… ALWAYS. Never decide upon your keyword after writing. The reason is obvious. Your keyword helps you focus your writing. Deciding on your keyword after writing your content is akin to driving without a destination in mind.
13. Craft that killer headline:
The headline is the first point of contact between you and your audience. The headline is strongly related to your keyword but contains some additional extras to boost interest in your content. Your headline is basically your number one advertiser!
While the headline is strongly related to your keyword it contains some additional extras to boost interest in your content. In essence, the headline is basically your number one advertiser!
No matter how beautiful your article is, no one will read them if your headline is not attention-grabbing enough. There are proven steps to crafting the killer headline. Do not for any reason neglect learning the tricks of creating catchy headlines and settle for something random. Your articles need all the promotion they can get.
14. Find out what has been written about your chosen topic in the past:
To get a sense of direction and to ensure that you are writing what people want to read, NEVER begin writing before you find out what has been written about your topic before. Read about topics loosely related to yours. Also, read those topics intimately related to yours. This is necessary for a number of reasons. Top of which are:
- You differentiate your writing and content sufficiently from other writers.
- You are sure that you are writing content that people will absolutely love to read.
- You have a fuller, well-rounded knowledge of your topic and therefore can write a richer, more effective content.
15. Get into the head of your ideal audience:
All writers, want to be read. No one is writing for themselves alone. At least, I don’t. To ensure that your writing is hugely successful, you must get into the head of your ideal audience.
Find out what problem they have, find out what tone they relate best to and find out what kind of content they enjoy reading best. Essentially, find out all you can about them as it relates to your topic. That’s the only way you can ensure that they read your content when you present it to them.
16. Decide upon the depth of your work:
The depth of your work is strongly related to the writing style you will employ. It is simply about how deep you intend to dig into the topic you are writing about.
You should understand that there are topics that are more suited for solid but simple content. This is because it is impossible to develop all the points thoroughly without writing a full encyclopedia! And usually, readers are not interested in knowing all these details.
They require these kinds of topics as a lighthouse to direct their thoughts. Some topics, however, are to be developed sufficiently to give the reader a solid grasp of them. Tutorials, guides, and ‘how to…’ contents are some examples.
17. Decide on the form of your content:
The form of your content refers to the organization of its individual sub-topics. Some content type – especially the simple content types – do better with the list content form. The in-depth articles, on the other hand, rely strongly on well-organized sub-topics and bullet point content form.
Infographic contents are also very effective content forms. There are other content forms such as guides and also statistics-based content popular on the web today. Before you decide upon what content form to adopt:
- Check out the articles about your topic that are most successful (8-10 is okay)
- Create a table of columns for each content type that was utilized most often
- Tally your results and make your informed decision
18. Decide on the goal of your writing:
The goal of your writing is simply what you intend to achieve with that particular content. Your goal may be to increase your audience base or convert your readers to customers. Others may be for the sake of spreading information to a large group of people.
Deciding on your writing goal helps to take care of certain writing confusions most especially the tone of writing. For content intended for marketing purposes, the tone is usually hurried to cause the reader to make decisions in a short time. For informative articles, the tone is usually patient and calm as the content is intended to teach.
19. Highlight the key points of your content:
If you followed the sequence listed above, I believe you should have a clear definition of what points you want to consist your article by now. That is what the key points of your articles represent!
They are the individual headings, subheadings, possible bullet point list and any other information you wish to compose your article. Here are two tips to assist you:
- Take a break for a while and brainstorm on the possible key points you want to be included in your article.
- List ALL the ideas for your key points in a scratch pad or note taker app.
20. Create a stellar outline for your content:
The outline of your content is the skeleton of your content. It doesn’t only show what topics and subtopics will be discussed in the body of the content, it also shows where and how.
Think of your outline as the refined and reorganized version of the key points of your content. While the key point is very important, it must go through lots of shake-ups before it can be useful. To create a stellar outline you should:
- Get your key point list.
- Reorganize this list in a sequence that reflects the intended flow of your writing.
- Remove the unnecessary points.
- Merge together some key points that are too shallow to stand alone.
- Go over the developed outline and if satisfied, save it. If not go over the process again.
Writing your content:
21. Originality is key:
It is great advice to look over what has been written about your topic in the past. But as always, there is a perk to it. NEVER lose the originality of your writing. The core reasons for studying the articles that have been written about your topic in the past is to help you create better content. NOT CREATE THE SAME CONTENT!
Always seek to differentiate your written work from other articles written on the same topic. BE ORIGINAL ALWAYS.
22. Write in the active voice:
Active voice is the voice of instruction and conversation. It is the voice that keeps your write-up from sounding like those boring distant, complex textbooks your audience love to avoid.
Writing in the active voice requires a conscious effort. You should always watch for passive sentences in your work and tweak them to their active variant. Although it is nearly impossible to write all the sentences in your content in the active voice, endeavor to limit their instances as much as possible.
23. Focus on solving a problem:
If your content is not solving a problem than it is guaranteed to do poorly on the web. Some writers confuse web writing with story writing. They tend to focus on creating beautiful scenery and focus less on problem-solving.
You should only create a content if it is going to solve a problem. It is easier to engage readers with articles that are relevant to their problems than creating a beautiful story.
24. Link to authorities in your work:
You should always link to authority websites sources in the body of your content while writing. Linking is a simple technique to build your authority. Some benefits of linking to authority websites include:
- A possible backlink from these authority sites which is a goldmine for exposure and traffic from their visitors
- Increased perceived value in your work – most readers assume that the more links you have in your work the more thorough you are as a writer
- Refinement of idea – the more links you are able to read before writing increases the quality of your final write-up. In short, your articles are easily better than most others.
25. Spacing and readability:
Readability is simply a measure of how convenient it is to read your content. Cluttered writing turns off readers. Give enough white space in your work.
- Increase the line space for the content on your website.
- Choose only legible and web friendly fonts.
- Increase the font size of your content.
- Write shorter sentences.
- Break up long paragraphs into shorter ones.
26. Employ sub-headings and bullet points as often as possible:
Readers of web content are majorly scanners. They absolutely detest a block of text and would prefer to have a bullet list summarizing the content of that text block.
Sub-headings are also another means to help reduce the negative effects of having large blocks of text. Areas to employ bullet points in your writing are:
- When listing examples or instances
- For short critical definitions or explanations that would have been otherwise lost in the text body
- For comparison purposes
- For outlining certain key areas in your content.
27. Write in simple language:
The internet is used by all kinds of people. Most of your target audience will consist of people with different degrees of fluency in the English language. This may be due to the following:
- They are not native speakers of English language but rather took it up as a second language
- They do not have solid understanding of the Language
- They do not possess the level of education required to understand high-level vocabulary.
You should avoid using difficult vocabulary and write as simply as you can to guarantee that your content will be read at all.
28. Use the dictionary to resolve your writing conflicts:
The English language is wide and can pose a serious problem, even to the best writers. If you feel like you are using a word wrong, look it up in the dictionary. If you can’t remember the exact wordings of an idiom or a popular phrase look it up.
There’s nothing to be ashamed of. You get to better your writing and also create better content.
You should be careful, however, not make this a habit. Only use the dictionary only when you absolutely must!
29. Include images to improve audience engagement:
Images are easier to relate to than text. Always include images and pictures at strategic points in your content in order to break your readers’ concentration for a second or two. This break in concentration will force them to refocus fully on your content with renewed enthusiasm, afterward.
Laying a huge block of text before them – no matter how well spaced – will get boring with time. Spice things up a little. However, be careful to:
- Use only related images with a clear relevance to your content.
- Use only images for which you have a license or images with a creative commons license. You don’t want to invite lawsuits to your doorsteps!
30. Employ the art of storytelling:
There is no better way to spark interest in your content than the use of storytelling. You should consider using simple stories to convey your points across. It is found to improve readers’ engagement by causing them to use their imagination to connect with your message.
The key to this technique is to use related stories and to keep them reasonably lengthy. This is so that you do not cause you audience to lose the purpose of your content.
31. Keep up with trends:
Web writing changes every now and then. There was a time when a short content of 500 words was very effective. Today a content of that length is not recommended for blog posts.
Infographics, long-form blog posts, and guides are currently doing very well in terms of holding down the attention of the audience these days. You should research the prevalent trend in your niche and try to conform your writing to guarantee great results.
32. Don’t lose your voice:
Every writer has a unique ‘voice’ in their writing. This unique writing style is easily distinguishable if you go through their posts. You have a unique writing voice. Do not lose it in a bid to improve your appeal to your audience.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t seek to improve but rather while you improve, retain your originality to ensure that you sound distinct from other writers in your niche.
Editing Your work
33. Never edit while you write:
This is a no-brainer. You should do one thing at a time. Write or edit. Editing your work while you write will leave you confused as you continue. Because they don’t activate the same section of the brain. Writing requires creativity, editing requires logic. These two don’t mix.
Write and ignore all your errors. Keep writing out the ideas as they come to you. There is always time to cut out unneeded words after you are done.
34. Your audience comes first:
This should be your mindset before you start editing your work. You should be prepared to lose chunks off your original draft to maintain clarity. Your message must be devoid of any vagueness or confusion. The only way to ensure that is to edit very strictly. Your audience always comes first.
35. Cut out the fluff:
The fluff in your work are all the fancy adjectives and phrases included in your work. You should actively limit the usage of these fancy phrases and words. Your work is easier to read if they don’t contain unnecessary words and descriptions. Fancy writing is not web writing!
36. Never edit immediately after writing:
Editing your work after writing is a terrible idea. There is a huge tendency to mentally cover up for errors in the write-up as you are not yet objective enough to assess it. Give a few hours or better still leave it until the next day.
37. Copy and paste in different pages while your edit:
Divide you entire work into sections. And copy and paste each section to different pages of your text editor. Breaking apart the entire text increases the chances of spotting errors than looking over a long text.
The longer the text you want to edit, the more overwhelmed you will be. And if you are overwhelmed it is likely that you will skip a ton of writing mistakes during editing.
38. Target long sentences and long paragraphs:
Long sentences are difficult to interpret and long paragraphs are hard to read. Look out for long sentences and try to shorten them into smaller ones.
Make sure to retain the original meaning after shortening as you don’t want to confuse your audience further. Breakdown paragraphs until each paragraph passes just one message. Your audience will be happy you did.
39. Spelling and punctuation errors:
Punctuations dictate the reading flow of your work. Never miss punctuation marks in sentences. If you feel a sentence is too long and requires a rest point, insert a comma. It will improve the flow of your work.
Nothing screams amateur louder than a spelling error! Use a capable text editor to spot and correct every spelling error you may have made in the course of writing.
40. Read everything over again:
When you are done editing, it is a good practice to read the edited work from start to finish. Do not rush it, read it slowly like you are inspecting every word and sentence for error.
Take your time and be objective. If you feel a word is out-of-place, replace it. Any unnecessary sentence should also be cut out. Go over your work a few more times until you are satisfied.
41. Hire an editor:
If you are not satisfied with your effort at editing your work, you should consider hiring a professional to do your editing – An editor. Sometimes an ‘outsider’ is the better person to look over and edit your work objectively.
42. Go on and publish:
There’s always that chance that you might never be satisfied with your work no matter what. Every writer has that feeling too. Always remember that you are not writing for yourself but for an audience. And as long as you are solving a problem they will love your work. So go on and hit publish.
Do set aside some time to revise your previous work as you get better.
So that’s about all there is to writing successful content to attract and keep loyal readership. Like every skill, you get better at writing if you practice long enough. Do you think I skipped anything? Do you have other tips to share? Let me know in the comments below.
Why don’t you share this psot with your social circle… It’s one click. I promise!